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André Kertész

André Kertész

 Text from Wikipedia

Kertész André
American, 1894-1985


André Kertész (Born Andor Kertész July 2, 1894 - September 28, 1985) was a Hungary-born photographer distinguished by haunting composition in his photographs and was also a progenitor of the photo essay. In his lifetime, however, his then-unorthodox camera angles, which hindered prose descriptions of his works, prevented his work from gaining wider recognition. His use of symbolism also became unfashionable later in his life. Kertész is now recognized as one of the seminal figures of photojournalism.

Born in Budapest, the son of a bookseller, Kertész taught himself how to use a camera and, as part of the Austro-Hungarian army in World War I, had his first photos published. Even in 1914 (e.g. "Eugene, 1914") the influential style for which he became known was distinctive and mature.

After the war, Kertész emigrated to Paris in 1925, changed his first name from Andor, and became acquainted with members of the Dada movement. One of them dubbed André Kertész "Brother Seeing Eye"; an allusion to a medieval monastery where all the monks were blind except one. His greatest journalistic collaboration was with French editor Lucien Vogel, who ran his photographs without explanatory prose. He created portraits of (among others) the painters Mondrian and Chagall, the writer Colette, and film-maker Sergei Eisenstein. In Paris he found critical and commercial success, and monographs claim that he was the first photographer in the world to ever have a one-man exhibition (1927). He was a mentor to many famous names; "We all owe something to Kertész", said Henri Cartier-Bresson.

In 1936 Kertész and his wife Erzsebet (later altered to Elizabeth) went to the United States to escape the coming war. His photographic style did not mesh well with the straightforward fashion photography the American public (and magazines) expected, though. However, the Condé Nast Publishing empire had apparently signed Kertész to a long-term contract, and he spent most of his time photographing famous homes for House & Garden magazine.

He continued to exhibit his personal work as best he could but, slowly, his reputation faded, and he became disillusioned. His artistic reputation was later boosted with substantial help from the Museum of Modern Art - although he did not feature in Steichen's The Family of Man show in 1955.

It was in 1964, with John Szarkowski as the new photography Director at MoMA, that Kertész re-invented and relaunched himself with a solo MoMA show. He caught the mood of the times, and became seen as an 'elder statesman' by the photographers of the late 1960s and early 1970s who were seeking to validate a tradition of documentary/art photography, through linking it back to the Paris photographers of the 1920s and 1930s.

By the mid-1970s he was showing his work in galleries all over the world. He continued working very productively into old age, and was experimenting with instant Polaroid photography shortly before he died.